Shihad – Old Gods
Released: October 8th, 2021
Jon Toogood – Vocals/Guitar
Phil Knight – Lead Guitar/Keyboards
Karl Kippenberger – bass
Tom Larkin – Drums/Samplers
New Zealand’s finest. No argument. I’m right. The best band from Aoteoroa ever. And a band that are proudly Kiwi as well. And maybe their geographical location has been a hindrance to their success. I remember reading a Kerrang review of their fantastic 1999 album, The General Electric which stated that if Shihad were from L.A. they would probably be the biggest band in the world, but unfortunately they’re not.
They should’ve been.
I remember seeing them at the Big Day Out in 2000 and they blew me away. This was on a day where Blink 182, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails and (ugh) the Chili Peppers were on, and they wiped everyone out with their energy and power. They still are one of the best live acts I’ve ever witnessed.
A lot has changed for Shihad since that hot summer’s day in 2000. They had an ill-fated attempt at trying to crack the American market post 9/11 by changing their name to Pacifier. Thankfully they said, “Fuck it!” and changed back to Shihad and tried to get heavier.
Their last album, FVEY released in 2014 was as heavy as fuck, both musically and lyrically. Vocalist/guitarist Jon Toogood and co. are pissed off at the world, especially the way the United States controls everything through the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance, which Australia is a part of. New Zealand famously scrapped the ANZUS treaty in the 80’s by not allowing nuclear powered US warships to dock there. This is important to know because it totally frames Shihad’s outlook on the world, and New Zealand’s place in it. Shihad are looking at the big picture and it’s things like blind patriotism (especially in the U.S.), the control of information and the impact that the media has on government and the people.
Another significant change for Jon Toogood is his conversion to Islam and his marriage to a Sudanese Muslim woman (Dana Salih) in 2014. The massacre at the mosque in Christchurch in 2019 by an Australian white supremacist in 2019 and the pandemic have kept the rage and fire burning in this man, and as a result, Shihad have released a pounding, driving and thought-provoking album with Old Gods.
The album kicks off where FVEY left off; heavy riffing belied by Jon’s sense of melody as the first two songs lay the foundation for where Old Gods is going. ‘Tear Down Those Names’ and the title track are a call for change in the world. We ‘don’t need them anymore’, ‘It’s time to tear down those names’ and ‘kill these Old Gods’. In the eyes of Shihad, the world needs a change and needs it now. They no longer wish to celebrate the so-called founding fathers, but to look forward to a new way.
‘The Hill Song’ is about the wonders of organised religion, especially a large mega-church that started in New Zealand by a paedophile and moved to Australia only to be protected by the highest office in the land (just stating facts). With its chorus of ‘God loves a winner/god pays for dinner/god hates all you sinners/god loves a winner’, the song baits at the basic tenets of these churches, especially the one the flourished in Western Sydney, spread all around the world, and has a massive Canadian pop star as one of its converts, where prosperity is prized above generosity. Money = God’s love.
But I digress…
‘Feel the Fire’ is the most obvious single here, with its incredibly catchy chorus about trying to find that thing that ignites youthful exuberance, about how life gets in the way from wanting to change the world.
And I’m just touching the surface here. Old Gods is almost a rallying cry; that the world needs to change and the only ones who can change it are us, and more importantly the youth of today, that the old way is broken and the old people who run it are just falling into a pattern once the fire of youth is extinguished. That we can rise up and make significant change.
Whew! I’ve been listening to this album a fair bit, and I think it’s gotten to me. I need to have a cup of tea and a lie down and watch some Sky News.
I love Shihad, and I love this album.
Shihad – Old Gods tracklisting:
- Tear Down Those Names
- Old Gods
- Mink Coat
- The Hill Song
- Feel the Fire
- Little Demons
- Empire Falling
- Just Like You
- Slow Dawning
- The Wreckage